Up to 500 people filed through the Cleveland Family YMCA on Urbane Road Thursday seeking employment at a job fair sponsored by the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, YMCA and Southeast Tennessee Development District.
Chamber of Commerce Director of Existing Industry Programs Lisa Pickel said this is a good time to promote employment because “our industry here is booming in all areas.”
Cleveland Family YMCA Executive Director Lee McChessney said hosting the job fair was a natural fit since the organization is all about improving the quality of life of individuals and families.
“Anytime we can help people find a job or a better job, that helps us all,” he said.
The Fall Job Fair attracted 47 employers with immediate openings or which will soon have vacancies. Human resources officials represented businesses ranging from manufacturing, retail, banking, education, medical and temporary, to fast food.
“It’s very diverse. We have actual manufacturing-type industries [ranging from] banking to financial — to staffing agencies for various industries from Athens, Dayton, Chattanooga and Cleveland,” Pickel said. “It’s an excellent time to look for work. All of these people in this room are hiring. If they are not hiring at this very moment, they are going to be hiring within two weeks. It’s not like anyone is here just to get your name and number, and call you when maybe something comes open.”
Human resources officers who make hiring recommendations represented the companies. They either had paper applications available or instructed prospective employees on how to navigate the online process.
The variety of job seekers included 20-year-old Tyler Evans who was at the event with his wife of seven months, Alexandria, 18. Tyler has worked a temporary manufacturing job since he graduated from Cleveland High School in 2011. His short-term goal is to find a more secure manufacturing job.
Thelma Goldston of Cleveland, was looking for clerical work. She became unemployed in August after the death of the owner of the small business where she worked. The job fair was her first.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “I like it. There are a lot of great opportunities here. I feel confident I will find another job because I’m never going to give up.”
One man filling out an application said he did not have time for a media interview.
“I’m in a little bit of a hurry,” he said.
Some of the applicants came dressed in T-shirts, jeans and sneakers while others wore suits, polished shoes and neatly trimmed hair. One representative said job seekers should always arrive at a job fair dressed for success. That means wearing a suit and tie. Women should wear short or low heels. Wear comfortable clothing but no torn jeans or shirts or sayings on shirts, and no heavy perfumes or makeup.
“Always be dressed professionally,” Pickel said. “Bring resumes and be prepared to talk about yourself and skills. You should come to a job fair just like you’re going to an interview, because you may walk into your dream job and get an interview on the spot.”
Regions Bank recruiter Shirley Brown reads all of the resumes and online applications. It is her job to screen applicants, schedule interviews and send the most qualified to meet with branch managers. She sought to fill one part-time and one full-time teller position in Cleveland. She also had openings in Athens and Collegedale.
“I am the one they would interview with,” she said.
Sandi Kramer, iKruitStaffing president, said hers is a full-service agency representing all areas of industry.
“We’ve had college graduates who haven’t been able to find anything, people whose unemployment [insurance] has run out or their companies have downsized and they are looking for work,” she said.
Pickel said many of the job seekers were under-employed, employed in sectors that do not match skill sets or unemployed. The job fair, she said, was a win-win for both employers and employees. The local unemployment rate is still above 8 percent, but jobs are available for people flexible enough to learn new skills, if needed.
Donna Robinson, who works for McDonald’s franchisee Smith Management, said most people look at fast food as a transitional job, but it can be a career. She started at McDonald’s 32 years ago, making hamburgers just to earn Christmas money.
“Now, I’m in charge of human relations and marketing for our company in the area where they have 10 restaurants,” she said. “What we’re looking for are people who want a career, who maybe at this point in their lives may only be able to give a little of their time. Maybe they are homemakers or someone looking for a part-time job.”
She said everyone has to start at the bottom in order to build that firm foundation of food quality, food safety and customer service — how to take care of customers and make them feel like it’s an experience they are getting and not just a hamburger.
When someone says sarcastically they could be flipping burgers, she said, “They’re not just flipping burgers. They are learning.”